The big lie …

Getting into college is not meant to be easy. It’s supposed to challenge our children, have them step up to the plate and deliver on academic accomplishments, likely supported by extra-curricular activities and athletic prowess. It’s a highly selective process — one that should encourage our young students to pursue that which might be difficult but is always rewarding. They should, after being admitted to their college of choice, feel proud of what they have accomplished. And for those who don’t get into their first- or second-choice schools, they should do their best wherever they wind up — and maybe improve their grades and achieve their goals with the next round of admissions.

College admission should not, under any circumstances, be granted to those with only the wealth and privilege to pay for it. Fair play demands that students are evaluated on their successes, in the classroom and on the field, certainly, but also as young men and women about to embark on a journey. They should be rewarded for being bright and hardworking, for doing their due diligence to get into an institution of higher learning and for earning their way in legitimately.

To see what happened last week, when dozens of people involved in what the United States Attorney’s Office called “a nationwide conspiracy” of cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite universities, is disconcerting, to say the least. Federal agents in multiple states justly arrested those involved in the scandal and charged them in federal court in Boston.  Some were CEOs and attorneys, others were fashion designers and actresses. All were charged with having used bribes to get their children into elite universities like Stanford and Yale.

Unmasked as the mastermind behind the scheme was William “Rick” Singer, a 58-year-old Newport Beach, Calif., man. His Key Foundation gave a mission statement online that it has “touched the lives of hundreds of students that would never have been exposed to what higher education could do for them,” adding it’s “met these students where they live, to encourage them, and open doors for enriching opportunities beyond their wildest imaginations.”

That appears to be a lie. The foundation, at the hands of Singer, reportedly doled out millions of dollars — $25 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office — in bribes to get undeserving students into top colleges. Some were given false backgrounds as athletes ready to compete at the collegiate level. Others were given more time on their college entrance exams by claiming to be disabled. Still others allegedly had their tests taken for them, or were given the correct answers. Coaches and administrators at some of the named schools were reportedly bribed to say they were recruiting high performing athletes when really they were not. 

And then, furthering the deception, Singer had parents pay the dirty money to his “charitable organization” so they could evade paying taxes on the bribes.

If proven, this was a crime of grave deception and of weak morality. The parents who participated should feel ashamed. What kind of example does it set for their children? And how can their children, some of whom might have been aware of the deception and some of whom might not have been, hold their heads up high? What did they do to earn placement in a college that should probably have gone to someone else — someone who had their own challenges but worked hard to gain admission? Both the students who gained unfair admission and the students who were denied admission were cheated here.

Rules are there for a reason. They should not be bent for the highest bidder. We’re glad to see the Justice Department go after this. To fabricate credentials to get one’s child into college is a pretty big lie. To place a premium on going to a great school rather than doing great at any school, a disappointment. Maybe those who participated in this massive scandal will reconsider what it means to win at all costs and learn that victory is only worth something when it’s earned.